The ability to put the ball in the back of the net is arguably the most important one in football.
The current crop of marksmen in the Premier League are extremely talented, so much so that it’s difficult to tell who currently is the “best” goal-scorer.
I decided to dive into the data available and determine the identity of the sharpest marksman in the English top flight.
Stats, when used in the right context, can be a great tool for assessing the effectiveness and efficiency of football players. They’ve evolved over the years and we’re moving into the era of advanced stats.
Enter Understat, an organization dedicated to creating the most precise method for shot quality evaluation. By calculating football metrics such as Expected goals (xG), they provide a clearer picture of player performance which hard stats like goals and assists don’t necessarily provide.
Using xG data from Understat and shot data from the Premier League over the last 2 seasons, I aimed to determine the players who excelled not only at scoring but at getting themselves into positions to convert high-quality chances.
Using a sample set of players with 20+ goals since the start of last season, I eliminated the players who were “underperforming” according to their xG data. What this means is that these players were scoring fewer goals than they should have.
Moving on, I then calculated the number of high-quality chances each of the players left was finishing off on a per 90-minute basis. This helps us determine the players finishing off “easier chances”.
If a player excels in this metric, then they’ve been scoring goals from the best positions. Tap in’s in the box instead of 40-yard screamers.
While the latter is certainly fun to watch, the former is certainly every striker’s dream and an accurate representation of off-ball movement and positioning.
Below is a visual representation of my findings. The higher up a player is, the more likely it is that he’s been fashioning chances out of nothing. The farther right a player is, the better the quality of chances he’s finishing and likewise the better his positioning.
I also calculated each player’s shooting efficiency (goal conversion rate) using their shot data since the start of last season. I then compared it to the volume of shots taken.
In the graph above, the higher up a player is, the higher the number of shots he takes, and the farther right a player is, the higher his efficiency.
Now that we’ve got all the technical jargon out of the way, let’s get into the best part, the rankings.
Heung Min Son
Starting off the list we have Tottenham Hotspur attacker Heung Min Son. Son has scored 21 goals since the start of last season and does a lot of his damage spectacularly.
He’s taken 138 shots in that period, meaning his conversion rate falls at about 15.2%, and with a chance quality score of 0.38, he has to settle for tenth in the rankings.
Next, we have the Arsenal striker Alexandre Lacazette. The Frenchman has found the back of the net 20 times since the start of last season.
With 121 shots taken, a conversion rate of 16.5%, and a chance quality score of 0.43, Lacazette has been more efficient with his finishing than his north London counterpart, earning him the number nine spot.
The Saint’s gunman has been in spectacular form and has notched up 22 goals since last season began. He’s taken 123 shots and has a conversion rate of 17.9% in that period.
He’s also got a chance quality score of 0.51, earning him a spot as one of the league’s premier goal-scorers.
Another Frenchman, this time one from the northwest of England. The Manchester United forward is often a subject of debate over his ability and commitment.
However, whilst taking just 99 shots, he’s managed 21 goals since the start of the previous season. This gives him a conversion rate of about 21.2% and with a chance quality score of 0.45, Martial is definitely amongst the league’s sharpest marksmen.
Moving back to the capital we have Tottenham’s ace, Harry Kane. The Spurs talisman has been a model of consistency ever since his breakthrough season and with 28 goals since last season began, it’s no surprise to find him on this list.
He’s taken 158 shots in that period, leading to a conversion rate of about 17.7% and with 0.51 on the chance quality conversion metric, he earns himself a sixth spot in the rankings.
The inclusion of Liverpool’s Egyptian king is no surprise but his position on the ranking is. Because he’s scored a whopping 38 goals since last season began, many would expect him to be closer to the top of this list.
However, he’s taken a ridiculous amount of shots in that period, pulling the trigger 235 times, meaning his efficiency drops to about 16.1%.
He does, however, excel at getting into great positions and with a chance quality score of 0.6, he makes it into the top five.
Another Liverpool marksman, Sadio Mane has been supreme in front of goal since the start of last season, scoring 36 goals whilst taking 147 shots.
This conversion rate of 24.4% coupled with his decent chance quality score of 0.51 means that the Senegalese international beats his Liverpool teammate and finishes fourth in my list of finishers.
On to the Midlands, where it’s always party time for Jamie Vardy. The Englishman has notched up 36 goals since last season began, taking 138 shots in the process.
This means he has a conversion rate of about 26.1% and coupled with his chance quality score of 0.6, the Vardy party makes it into the top three.
Manchester City’s record scorer and an all-time Premier League great, Kun Aguero’s goal-scoring prowess is hardly a well-kept secret.
Part of the reason why the diminutive Argentine marksman has been so prolific has been his ability to get into the best positions to finish off chances and his impressive score of 0.8 xG per 90 minutes comes as no surprise.
He’s found the net 37 times since the start of the last campaign, taking 190 shots in the process, and with a conversion rate of about 19.4%, Sergio has to settle for second place in the rankings.
It seems only fitting that the Premier League’s premier finisher resides in the capital. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has taken the Premier League by storm and has been the most prolific player since the start of the last campaign, finding the back of the net 39 times.
He’s also been one of the most effective, taking 159 shots in that period, with a conversion rate of about 24.5%.
His brilliant positioning cannot be overlooked and with a chance quality score of 0.63 xG per 90 minutes played, Aubameyang tops my list as the current best goal-scorer in the Premier League.